Being near Seattle, I have access to an amazing local charcuterie place: Salumi. (And so does anyone else in the US, since they do mail order!) Owned and operated by Armandino Batali (yup, that Batali family), they make some of the most amazing cured sausages and meats you've ever tried. They're also a small restaurant, so if you're in the area (or visiting), make sure you get there. Just get there early - the line can be insane.
Besides sausages and other things related to pork, they also have pancetta. I went a little crazy and ordered some sausages, and a hunk of pancetta. I asked for around a pound, but they'll send whatever they have, so in the end, I got 1.7 lbs. For 2 people. Oops.
Isn't it just beautiful, though? First things first was to make a BLT with pancetta. I made rolls from the artisan bread in 5 minutes a day method (link is here), chopped some grape tomatoes since the good stuff is out of season, and fried up some thin sliced pancetta. Add a little spiked mayo (a tiny dab of hickory smoke, pepper, smoked paprika) and it made an awesome sandwich.
Next up was Pasta alla Amatriciana. The month previous, I made a batch of my standby tomato sauce - Mario Batali's recipe. This stuff is great to make a big batch of and have on hand - it freezes well, and if you get the gigantic cans of tomates from Costco, it's very cost effective to make (around $3-4 for a 12 servings!). Of course, you can go the San Marzano route as well, but I find I get a perfectly good sauce from decent quality canned tomatoes.
I love this sauce, it's a fantastic base, and always full of flavor.
(my slightly modified version of) Mario Batali's Basic Tomato Sauce
1.5 TB extra-virgin olive oil
1 onion, 1/4-inch dice
4 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
3 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme leaves (can sub 1 TB dried, but fresh is good)
1/2 medium carrot, finely grated
2 (28-ounce) cans peeled whole tomatoes, crushed very well by hand and juices reserved
Salt and pepper to taste
In a medium saucepan over medium heat, heat the olive oil and sweat the onion and garlic until soft and golden, about 10 minutes. Do not let it brown or burn. Add the thyme leaves and carrot, and cook a few minutes more. Add tomatoes and about 1/2 of the juice (make sure to reserve the rest). Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer gently until the sauce is thick, about 45 minutes. If too thick, add in some reserved tomato juice. (Mario's original recipe calls for all the juice, but I find this makes the sauce too soupy). If the sauce is too chunky, you can give it a whirl with a hand blender (a handy tool that I highly recommend having!), but don't puree it, you want some texture.
This recipe is easily doubled, and keeps very well frozen. Never buy canned tomato sauce again!
To make Pasta all'Amatriciana, saute one diced onion and 1/4 lb finely diced pancetta in a little olive oil. Fry until pancetta is crisp and onion is soft. Add a large pinch of red pepper flakes to taste. Add 2 cups of cooked basic tomato sauce and let simmer for 10 minutes. Toss with a pound of cooked pasta like bucatini, spaghetti rigata or penne, and top with fresh grated Romano. Easy, yummy.
I'll post more of my pancetta creations as they are made and devoured.